Not everyone who has enough money to never need to work actually wants to retire. For these people, money means freedom. Ricky Gervais, creator of The Office, recently wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal. He is not concerned about what people think of him. He explains that he doesn’t have to be, because he writes all his own material, directs and produces his own stuff and isn’t controlled by “big wigs.” He doesn’t depend on anyone for work or for income.
In investment houses, this freedom has the impolite name of “F— you money.” It’s the ability to say “F— you” before, instead of after, hanging up the phone. Traders have the opportunity to earn large amounts, but just because they have the money, doesn’t mean they want to stop exercising their abilities. They simply want the freedom to work independently, without being answerable to anyone.
That’s what I like about Tim’s byline “Free at 45.” It’s not necessarily about never working for income. Even if I never work for income again, I’ll certainly continue working. My mother phoned and asked how I’ve been lately. I said “busy,” and she wondered what I’ve been up to. Between reading, writing, serving on school council and advocating for public education, serving on a political action committee and attending a lecture, I have been busy. Not all of it counts as work, but I feel that I’m being productive.
Really, it all comes down to what I want. I set my own schedule (in conjunction with my family’s needs). I choose my own projects. And I decide where my time is best spent. Only I will judge if I’m making good use of my time. But the drawback is that I have no one else to be accountable to. No one is going to give me structure or motivate me. I could waste hours or days or years, and no one would have a problem with it, except my future self (and my wife).
Money provides freedom. People who don’t have to work for money can choose how to use their time in ways that are meaningful to them, without being able to blame others for ineffective decisions. But you don’t have to have money to make good decisions. Before I stopped working, I decided not to waste my time, but to spend it on projects that are make my life meaningful to me. Even if I return to work, I still expect to continue doing the things that I feel make a difference.
What do you do now, that you will do more of when you don’t have to work (as often) for money? What would you like to start doing, when you have the freedom to do it?